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Full text of "The German idea of peace terms,by the Right Hon. J. M. Robertson, M. P."

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Walter Clinton Jackson Library 

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro 

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It is essential to a clear view of the present stage 
of the war that exact note should be taken of the 
German denunciation of the Peace Terms of the 
Allies, as indicated in their reply to the Note of 
President Wilson. In so many words the Kaiser has 
told his people that these terms mean " the crushing 
of Germany, the dismemberment of the Powers 
allied to us, and the enslavement of the freedom of 
Europe and the seas." " The destruction of our 
Fatherland " is now the current German description 
of the aims of the Allies. These aims are, in brief : 

1. The restoration of Belgium, Serbia, and Mon- 
tenegro, with compensations. 

2. The evacuation of the invaded territories of 
France, Russia, and Roumania, with reparation. 

3. International settlements guaranteeing land 
and sea frontiers against unjustified attack. 

4. Restitution of Alsace-Lorraine. 

5. Liberation of Italians, Slavs, Roumanians, and 
Czecho-Slovaks from Austrian and German domina- 

6. The freeing of non-Turkish populations from 
Turkish rule, and the expulsion of the Ottoman 
Empire from Europe. 



7. As regards Poland, the creation of a new 
Polish State. 

In rejecting these terms as intolerable, the Ger- 
man Government pointed with professed indignation 
to " the fate of the Irish people " and of the Boer 
Republics, the Protectorates of Britain and France 
in North Africa, " the suppression of foreign nation- 
alities in Russia, and, finally, the oppression of 
Greece, which is unexampled in history." It would 
appear, then, that the German Government regards 
all these as cases which ought not to have been 
allowed to occur. On the same principle, clearly, 
the cases of the subjection by Germany of Danes in 
Sleswig, Poles in Poland, and French in Alsace- 
Lorraine; and of the subjection of Slavs, Czechs, 
and Roumanians by Austria, ought not to have been 
allowed to occur. So far there is a semblance of 
common ground for discussion. 

If it be asked, however, whether (i) the release of 
Greece from all Ally control, which she can obtain 
by simple observation of strict neutrality, would be 
regarded by Germany as a ground for yielding any 
one of the demands of the Allies, it will at once be 
perceived that her action is in no way determined 
by what the Allies have done. If it be asked, again, 
(2) whether the granting to Ireland of complete 
Home Rule as soon as the Irish people can agree 
on a settlement would be admitted by the German 
Government to be a ground for freeing the Poles 
and Danes, either by way of Home Rule or other- 
wise, it will be at once realised that the reference to 
Ireland does not imply the slightest disposition to 
do for Poles and Danes what it is declared by im- 



plication ought to be done for Ireland. The Ger- 
man Government has not the remotest intention of 
freeing the Danes, or doing anything it is not com- 
pelled to do for the Poles. 

Still less is it to be supposed that, in the event of 
its success, it would dictate to its Turkish ally the 
liberation of Armenia, or to its Austrian ally the 
liberation of any of the Slav peoples now under 
Austrian dominion. The assumed indignation of 
the German Government, then, is a mere diplomatic 
or dialectic device. As regards British and French 
Protectorates in Africa, the pretence is still more 
transparent. Either these are or they are not justi- 
fiable in the present stage of Moslem civilisation. 
If they are not, not only is Turkish rule over 
Armenians doubly unjustifiable, in that it is mur- 
derous as well as unnatural, but the German 
Colonies in Africa were unjustifiable. But the 
seizure of these Colonies by the Allies is denounced 
in the bitterest terms by German representative and 
official writers as a crime against civilisation, and 
Turkey, they tell us, must not be touched. 

A common moral basis for discussion, then, as 
between the Central Powers and the Allies, does not 
appear to exist. The former affect to view with in- 
dignation political procedures which, as regards their 
own action, they are determined upon carrying, to 
say the least, to immeasurably further lengths. The 
reference to the Boer Republics is decisive. Those 
subjected States, having received responsible self- 
government, have entered into a voluntary union 
with the neighbouring British Colonies, the former 
leader of the Boer forces in the Boer War becoming 



President of the Union. So far from considering 
his country latterly oppressed, he has with supreme 
efficiency carried out the expulsion of the Germans 
from one of their South African Colonies, and one 
of his ablest Boer colleagues is now completing the 
work in other regions. The Boer populations are 
thus in the mass avowedly content with their relation 
to the British Empire. No such content exists with 
regard to Germany in Sleswig, in Prussian Poland, 
or in Alsace-Lorraine. 

It is hardly necessary, further, to dwell on the 
moral significance of the pretence that Greece has 
been suffering an " oppression unexampled in his- 
tory." When future historians read this proposition, 
and note that it comes from the Power which in 
August, 19 14, murderously invaded Belgium, not 
only inflicting military slaughter and frightful devas- 
tation but committing savage massacres of non-com- 
batants, including women and children ; which there- 
after wrung from the prostrate people, again and 
again, enormous money contributions ; then left them 
to subsist by the contributions of the Allies and of 
neutrals; and still later has brutally deported them 
by thousands for compulsory labour — when the his- 
torians of the future assimilate these facts, they will 
be divided between pronouncing German psych- 
ology an impenetrable mystery and summing up the 
German people as morally insane. For there is not 
the faintest intention on the part of the German 
Government to make amends to Belgium for the 
immeasurable wrongs she has endured. So far as 
can be gathered from any German utterance, official 
or unofficial, there is no reason to doubt that the mass 



of the German people of all classes regard the act 
of attempted self-defence by Belgium as having 
exonerated her assailant from guilt. 

Thus on the face of the official manifesto of the 
German Government it is plain that the Allies have 
to deal with a Power which recognises no moral 
standards in its dealings with other States. That 
any morally sane mind could at once find the 
" oppression of Greece " monstrous and the devasta- 
tion of Belgium innocent is not thinkable. It would 
be unfair to the normal savage to say that such an 
ethic is on the savage plane. Savages do not thus 
add insane sophistry to savage deeds. We must 
either suppose the German Government to be jesting 
(a thing not readily associable with German official- 
dom), under circumstances in which jesting would 
certainly be symptomatic of moral insanity, or pro- 
nounce it so radically iniquitous as to call for an 
international treatment analogous to that meted out 
to individual criminals. 

But the official attitude of the German Govern- 
ment in this matter only partially indicates the moral 
realities of the case. While it affects boundless in- 
dignation at the proposition that it and its allies 
should make amends and yield territory, it has quite 
certainly been planning to take territory from the 
States it had so far been able to victimise. As to 
this there has been no disguise among the general 
run of German publicists. It is not merely the 
common run of the newspapers and the propa- 
gandists of the stamp of Bernhardi that have been 
proclaiming the necessity of the annexation of Bel- 
gium. A number of them did that before the war 



when the Pan-German movement openly mooted 
also the annexation of Holland. As for mere in- 
vasion, it had been notorious throughout Germany 
for many years that " in the next war " with France 
an invasion by German armies through Belgium was 
part of the prepared military plan. But since the 
invasion men who could not before have been sus- 
pected of harbouring such ideas have declared them- 
selves strongly in favour of making the occupation 
of Belgium permanent. 

It was bad enough that the initial crime — matched 
in modern history only by that of the last massacre 
of Armenians by the Turks — should be zealously 
defended by many German jurists and other 
academic authorities after their Chancellor had 
avowed that it was a wrong for which reparation 
would have to be made. The assumption that a 
wrong could be compensated for was an indication 
of the moral standards of the Chancellor. Feeling 
that he had seemed too scrupulous for German taste, 
he took the earliest opportunity of saying so. After 
declaring on August 4th, 19 14, that his Government 
were aware of the readiness of the French to invade 
Belgium — a statement for which no evidence has 
ever been produced — he later took refuge in the 
pretext that Belgium had broken her neutrality by 
previously conferring with France and Britain as 
to how she should act when the expected invasion 
came. But even this lupine dialectic was outdone 
in the official publication, " Truth about Germany : 
Facts about the War." As thus : — 

"The inalienable right of self-defence gives the in- 
dividual whose very existence is at stake the moral 


liberty to resort to weapons which would be forbidden 
except in terms of peril. As Belgium would neverthe- 
less not acquiesce in a friendly neutrality which would 
permit the unobstructed passage of German troops 
through small portions of her territory, although her 
integrity was guaranteed, the German General Staff was 
obliged to force this passage in order to avoid the neces- 
sity of meeting the enemy on the most unfavourable 

"In our place the Government of the United States 
would not have acted differently. Inter arma silent 
leges — in the midst of arms the laws are silent. 

"The Belgians would have been wise if they had per- 
mitted the passage of the German troops. They would 
have preserved their integrity, and, besides that, would 
have fared well from the business point of view, for 
the army would have proved a good customer and paid 
cash. . . . 

"On these conditions it would have been absolutely 
impossible to us to give up passing through Belgium. 
Moreover, we had just learned with mathematical cer- 
tainty that a French army was getting ready to march 
in the direction of Belgium." 

We shall return later to the general ethic of this 
pronouncement. For the moment the point to be 
kept in view is the formula substituted for the Chan- 
cellor's official assertion that he knew the French 
were ready to invade Belgium. The question has 
been pertinently put : " In how many parts of France 
is it possible to march to the north without advancing 
more or less in the direction of Belgium ? " It has 
not been answered. 

The general principle that "necessity knows no 
law" of reciprocity may be said to have been en- 
dorsed by the German nation in the mass, the only 



dissentients being the small section who hold with 
the author of " J'Accuse," and who include a 
minority of the most advanced Social Democrats. 
Professor Haeckel, in the early period of the war, 
proposed the annexation of Luxembourg, with some 
additional territory, as a new German State, and the 
annexation of the greater part of Belgium with a 
part of France to make another; the remainder of 
Belgium being assigned to Holland. The equally 
distinguished Professor Wilhelm Wundt, of Leip- 
zig, also in 19 14 told the Belgians that " in their stiff- 
necked blindness they had conducted the war only 
to prove to the whole world their incapacity to exist 
as a State." The no less distinguished Professor 
Wagner, in a speech delivered at a meeting of the 
German Defence Union in February, 19 15, put this 
view : — 

"Even after our great success we will not turn our 
arms against Holland, Switzerland, and the other neu- 
tral German countries. But I fail to see why we should 
not keep Belgium, which we have conquered, inhabited 
as it is by many Germans." 

The statement was loudly applauded. And yet a 
fourth distinguished specialist. Professor Oncken, 
thus disposed of the moral problem of the invasion 
as early as October, 19 14 : — 

"The fate which Belgium has brought on her own 
head is hard for the individual, but it is not too hard 
for this State, for the destinies of the immortal great 
nations stand too high for it not to be necessary for 
them, in case of necessity, to step over existences which 
are not in a position to protect themselves, but lead a 



parasitic life on the oppositions of the great. This 
' neutral ' Belgium had for a long time been in the 
world economically a dependent of our enemies, France 
and Russia. We know that it was neither in a position, 
nor, in accordance with the views of the population 
which we now know, did it desire, to take upon itself 
the duties of neutrality. And the proofs are increasing 
that before we marched into Belgium it had already 
broken its duties in favour of France in more than one 
point. Let us leave Belgium to its fate." 

It is unnecessary to multiply quotations from less 
eminent publicists. The simple fact that the protest 
against a German policy of annexation had admit- 
tedly come only from the small Socialist minority 
is the proof that such a policy was in general favour, 
and was expected to be followed by the Govern- 
ment. If in course of time, as German hopes sank, 
there was a more common willingness to abandon 
conquests which there was small hope of holding, 
there had clearly been no change of moral attitude. 
Probably no honest pacifist in any country, belli- 
gerent or neutral, will deny that had Germany won 
the war she would have annexed Belgium, dismem- 
bered France and Russia, and taken every British 
colony which she could have hoped to handle. There 
is a whole German literature of proposals, of the 
year 19 15, for the division of the British carcase, 
the imposition of " helot " tasks on the British popu- 
lation, and so forth.* It is the nation which in very 
large part acclaimed these proposals that now affects 
burning indignation at demands for reparation, for 
restoration of stolen territory, and for the liberation 

* See Mr. Alexander Gray's The Upright Sheaf, and his The New 
Leviathan (Methuen, 1915). 



of subject races, as being a policy of " destroying 
our Fatherland." 

It is broadly and irrefutably true to say that the 
Central Powers and their allies would gleefully have 
"destroyed" all the other Fatherlands in Europe 
could they have done so. Germany would certainly 
have handed over Serbia and Montenegro to Austria 
and annexed Belgium. How long it would have 
abstained from annexing Holland is an interesting 
question. We have seen that Professor Wagner 
thought it worth while to make a point of stating 
that "even after our great success we will not turn 
our arms against Holland, Switzerland, and the 
other neutral German countries " [i.e., presumably 
the Scandinavian States]. The implication is that 
Germany might rightfully do so : else why the pro- 
position.'^ For any other Power the thing would be 
a matter of course, not to be even considered. For 
Germany it is otherwise. The situation being so 
understood, the States in question had notice of 
what they might expect in the fullness of time. 

In this connection we have now to consider the 
cases of Switzerland and Holland. The German 
sections of the Swiss people, while in the main main- 
taining the correct attitude of neutrality observed 
by the Swiss Government, have certainly been more 
in sympathy with Germany than with the Powers 
of the Entente. Yet it is equally certain that the 
entire Swiss people would have resisted to the ut- 
most any German infraction of their territory, just 
as did Belgium. The Dutch people would no less 
certainly have done the same. This being perfectly 
well known to the German people, they either regard 



those States as equally with Belgium deserving of 
annexation, or they have one moral test for a 
" Latin " State and another for a " Teutonic." 
Either way they rank for international purposes on 
the same criminal footing. They are either the un- 
scrupulous enemies of all States which they can hope 
to oppress, or the cultivators of a special form of 
racial mania which makes them the unscrupulous 
enemies of all races not supposed to be related to 

Strictly speaking, the former is the correct solu- 
tion, if we can attach any meaning whatever to the 
above-cited pronouncements in regard to Belgium. 
The principle that the right of self-preservation in- 
cludes the right to trample down any fellow-creature 
is the specific negation of all morality, and the last 
word of human baseness. It would entitle the Ger- 
man on a sinking ship to take a woman's life-pre- 
server for himself and let her drown. " Individual " 
right, be it remembered, is expressly pleaded as 
giving the cue to State right ; it is not argued that a 
State, to save itself, may fitly commit acts of mur- 
derous selfishness which in an individual would be 
abominable. The German jurists who argue the 
case appear to be men who reason from their indi- 
vidual ethic to State ethic. When, then, it is officially 
denied that German troops have used women and 
children as "living shields" in warfare, we are not 
required to believe that Germans in general would 
think the practice indefensible. On the Belgian 
precedent it would be sound war policy if it could 
be shown to be useful. 

It is hardly necessary to add that the plea of 



having promised reparation is no defence at all. 
No real security was offered to Belgium. By yield- 
ing to the German demand she would have con- 
stituted herself Germany's ally, and incurred the 
hostility of France and Britain, which would then 
have been perfectly entitled to treat her as an enemy 
and fight on her territory as the Germans have done. 
Nor could Germany guarantee a reparation which, 
in the event of her own complete defeat, she would 
be left unable to make. But even to discuss such 
issues is to obscure the vital fact that the demand 
made by the German Government was one which, 
if put to them, the entire Swiss people, including all 
of German stock, would have pronounced an insult, 
to be resented to the death. 

The summing-up of the whole matter is that the 
German Government, which really represents the 
bulk of the German people, recognises no principle 
of reciprocity in its dealing with others. Its refusal 
of the Allies' Peace Terms, which was, of course, 
to be expected, proceeds not upon any moral basis, 
but upon the simple animal egoism which in war 
would joyfully inflict any humiliation upon others, 
but recognises no duty of making even the most in- 
adequate amends for immeasurable injury done. 
Any sympathy given to such a Power by neutrals 
is the sympathy of simpletons, who would fitly be 
the next victims of the criminal whom they com- 
passionate. German "holy wrath" is directed 
against the demand for reparation to Belgium as 
much as against any of the other proffered terms. 

On calm reflection it may well seem to some neu- 
trals difficult to believe that the bulk of a civilised 


and " cultured " nation, and notably of its academic 
class, should at this stage of humanity have 
developed a moral attitude in international matters 
which belongs to the time of Rome and Carthage. 
But this phenomenon is the due result of the special 
political evolution of the German people for two 
centuries past. They have never for a moment lived 
in the political conditions which generate a political 
or national as distinguished from an individual 
moral sense. The group of German theologians 
who in 19 14 signed a manifesto proclaiming the 
superiority of German " Kultur " declared that most 
of them knew of the existence of Bernhardi's works 
only through the sensation they had made abroad. 
This may quite possibly be true. The mass of 
learned men in Germany are specialists, each en- 
grossed in his specialty, and all shut out from the 
political life which in other countries tends to 
moralise men in their national relations. Having no 
possibility of influencing national policy, they resign 
themselves to the political position of atoms in " the 
State," concerning which, in common with most of 
their countrymen, they have been trained to repeat 
a daily litany of national self-praise. That is their 
sole mode of political existence. And they indem- 
nify themselves for their individual obliteration 
under an autocracy by assuming a collective great- 
ness which is held to be reflected upon all. Indi- 
vidual political nullity is felt to be compensated 
by collective vainglory. The result is a Csesarean 

But while many individual specialists may have 
known nothing of any one German Chauvinist work 



hounding on the nation to acts of aggression, only 
the most recluse life can have kept any of them from 
knowing of the general Chauvinist propaganda. 
The 150 German Protestant clergymen who in or 
about 19 1 3 signed an appeal for a peace policy did 
so because they knew of a general war sentiment. 
At least four Generals — von Eichhorn, von 
Wrochem, von Liebert, and Keim, to say nothing 
of the Crown Prince — took active part in war propa- 
ganda in 19 1 2-13, a thing not possible without the 
assent of the authorities. And here we have one 
more memorable illustration of German national 
ethic. The Austrian case against Serbia, it will be 
remembered, was not merely the assassination at 
Serajevo, but the " agitation " which had been going 
on for years. It was on the score of that agitation 
that Austria proposed to make war on Serbia in 19 13, 
and wanted Italy to co-operate. 

Now just such an " agitation " had been going on 
in Germany for fully twenty years, in the shape of 
the propaganda of Pan-Germanism. That propa- 
ganda, in the name of a religion of race-character 
and race-destinies, menaced all the smaller " Teu- 
tonic " States with ultimate absorption by Germany, 
and all the non-Teutonic States with ultimate over- 
throw. Bernhardi only turned to specific military 
ends a line of propaganda which had been laid out 
by a score of Chauvinists before him. No German 
statesman is known ever to have set his face against 
such " agitation." The theologians who disclaimed 
Bernhardi never dreamt of asking themselves 
whether his work was not morally and practically 
on all fours with the "agitation" in Serbia which 



they thought was righteously to be punished by an 
Austrian invasion. As passive atoms in the 
Caesarean State they were inaccessible to such con- 

Professor Wilhelm Wundt, who has definitely 
associated himself with the worst manifestations of 
German national immoralism, might usefully, as a 
specialist in psychology, set himself the problem of 
tracing the process of the " Caesarean madness " as 
it arises in a people. The Caesarean madness is, in 
the psychology of crime, to be regarded as a form 
of " induced " insanity, the result, in an ill-balanced 
and ill-trained nature, of the sense of unlimited 
power. There is a close analogy between it and 
the political psychosis of the German people in the 
past dozen years. As to the symptoms, we are not 
dependent on the testimony either of Pacifism or of 
Kaiserist theologians. They are fully recorded in 
Professor O. Nippold's work, " Der Deutsche 
Chauvinismus" (19 13), which, as Mr. Alexander Gray 
observes, "has become a work of the highest his- 
torical importance." It records a rapidly rising 
pressure of war-madness, induced by a special 
chorus of German self-glorification, and a ritual of 
rapturous praise of war as war. 

Many, of course, protested; but by 1914 most of 
them had also been carried away. Men who had 
seemed to be internationalists a few years before 
joined in the chorus, all asseverating the national 
falsehood that the war had been forced on Germany. 
There was nothing more needed. A people so 
politically incompetent as to be capable of giving 
currency to such a mendacious formula was further 



incapable of a rational estimate of its own actions. 
The creed of German super-greatness fused all other 
forms of thought. A dozen leading specialists, atoms 
in the Caesarean State-consciousness, acclaimed the 
initial crime. Eucken supplied the latterly resumed 
formula of " holy wrath " ; and von Harnack, helping 
to draw up " peace terms " for the to-be-vanquished, 
suggested an item of £50,000,000 " for having told 
lies." Meanwhile, he was circulating the official 
falsehood as to the storing of British ammunition at 
Maubeuge before the war. The Caesarean madness 
was dominant. 

That this evolution should take place in an aggre- 
gate supposed to be on the whole good-natured is 
no anomaly. Nero began as a very amiable and 
promising youth, as did Henry VHI. It is the con- 
ditions that normally determine the development of 
the organism, and the Pan-German conditions — 
feudalism, autocracy, a mere simulacrum of self- 
government, habitual national vainglory, past 
military triumphs, and a vast military power — all 
made for national Caesarism to a degree never before 
seen in human history. As Athens, the self-con- 
scious crown of Greek life, became a " tyrant-city," 
vainglorious Germany became a tyrant State. 

This is the Power upon which the Allies have 
ultimately to impose " peace terms." It must be 
dealt with as what it is, a neurotic nation, liable to 
" civicidal " madness. There can be no question of 
vengeance. Vengeance for the wrong done is 
simply impossible. That which accrues by national 
suffering falls equally on the innocent and the guilty. 
All that is possible, all that is planned, is simply a 

19855. 18 


process (i) of material reparation, lamentably in- 
adequate to balance the ruin wrought; (2) of undoing" 
of old German iniquities, from the Partition of 
Poland to the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine; and 
(3) of vigilant safeguarding of the future.